Earlier this week local businesses and support groups held their 2nd Selby Enterprise Day. The event took place on Monday at the Selby District council offices. It was attended by many people and around 30 different businesses, Support groups and networking associations who gave tips to new and old business owners. Heidi Green, from Business Support York and North Yorkshire set up the annual event and was delighted by the attendance and the amount of eagerness between owners to help each other. People at both ends of the business scale attended, Some people have been trading for decades, while we also had brand new start up ideas looking for guidance. If you are thinking of starting up a brand new business of any size, or expanding your current business, help and support is available if you look for it. Everybody involved in the Enterprise day started from new at some point. The hashtag #EnterpriseDay was used via twitter to give updates. The social media hashtag was being used to guide people to the correct location, who then could help. Three workshops took place involving local business coaches giving talks on Social Media, ‘Not giving away too much Profit’ and ‘Networking Groups’.As mentioned before in this column, Heidi also arranges monthly ‘Enterprise Cafe’ events each month, these are on a smaller scale to the main yearly event, but still welcomes 40 to 50 people each time. They are now held in Community House on Portholme Road. In the wonderful world of business, It is not very often that you have the words ‘free’ and ‘help’ in the same sentence, so this is very valuable. New technology has gained momentum in our high streets. Some Blog readers may already use it, while others are not aware of it. Have you spotted a ‘contactless’ card reader in your favourite shop? The technology and card readers have been around since 2007, but mainly in our big cities. It works in a similar way to having a Oyster card on the London underground, swipe at the beginning and end of your journey and thats it. however contactless card readers are linked directly to your bank account rather than adding credit to an Oyster card. If you use it already, you will be interested to know that the spending limit is to be increased to £30 later this year. The current limit is £20. Over £2 billion was spent on 300 million transactions using the technology in 2014. People using the transport networks in London, Leeds and Cambridge are the trend setters. 1 in 10 journeys in these cities are paid for using this process. The technology allows customers to make payments just by briefly touching the card on a reader, and that’s it. There is no need to enter a PIN or wait for a printed receipt. Consumers are switching away from carrying cash. Having to go to a cash machine to get a note out, buying a coffee or birthday card, then jumping on a train normally results in a pocket full of change. People are more careful with every penny these days so paying the exact amount is a winner. Several cities, including Manchester, plan to introduce contactless payments at a grand scale in the near future. In October 2015, the minimum wage will rise by 20p to £6.70 an hour. This increase will mean more money for over a million lower paid workers throughout the UK. The Government has accepted the advice and independent recommendations to also raise the levels for younger workers over 18 by 17p to £5.30 an hour, and for 16 and 17 age group by 8p to £3.87. Apprentices wages are also increasing by 57p to £3.30 an hour. With the election only a few weeks away, the minimum wage is major issue for the various parties to get right. The Prime Minister, David Cameron has called on the UK employers to “give Britain a pay rise” following the improved economic situation over the last few years. More money in peoples pockets means more money being spent in our shops and businesses. I’ve spoken in this column before about the Governments huge push for school and college leavers gaining ‘hands on’ practical knowledge. One of the main ways for young people to do this is by taking on a apprenticeship qualification. Having practical experience in a trade is a huge plus point for anyone applying for a job. This country will always need skilled trades such as plumbers and electricians. The Prime Minister went on to say “Whether you’re on low pay or starting your dream career through an apprenticeship, you will get more support to help you go further and faster.” The opposition party, Labour has promised that their levels of wages will rise to £8 by 2020. Shoppers have been spending their hard earned pennies even more recently. We’ve just had the sunniest April since records began, and this has helped lift quarterly retail sales figures for businesses across the country. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has announced an 0.6% increase in overall retail spending. The ‘feel good’ weather has made people leave their houses and spend. Non food sales rose 2.3%, with food sales going up 0.4% over the quarter. The BRC quoted in the report that it gave “a clear indication that confidence among consumers is slowly improving even more”. They also mentioned “this is despite overall profitability being under intense pressure due to continued changes in shopping habits”. These shopping habits include shopping via websites and the attractiveness of home delivery. Consumers are also not being loyal to any one brand or product any more as they search for a discount or bargain. Old habits use to be shopping in the same place every time. Now, with adverts, social media and the internet, shoppers can be swayed to go elsewhere if they see a better reason to go. Retailers will be paying out for shop rents and business rates at the end of this quarter, so they will be trying extra hard to attract more footfall into their stores. This normally means ‘summer sales’ starting early. The good news is that it is set to continue, The weather ahead looks to stay warm and sunny through out the summer and the news of Princess Charlotte being born continues the consumers ‘feel good’ factor and encourages spending even more as we head into the next quarter. Recently I was delighted to be invited to meet the UK’s Taiwanese Ambassador, Dr Liu Chih Kung on his visit to see our historic town. Following on from Selby’s sudden increased tourism due to Asian Pop Star, Jay Chou getting married in the Abbey, the ambassador wanted to see the famous location for himself. Selby is very famous in Asia. My business mentor, Nigel Adams MP made the arrangements to welcome Dr Liu to Selby and invited me to attend the business lunch. Nigel Adams wanted to help the ambassadors idea of increasing the UK-Taiwanese business partnerships and exportation between the two countries. The Ambassadors delegation party included Mr Lee, the Director of the Taipei Economic Division, Mr Horng, Managing director of the Taiwan Trade Centre and Miss Lee assistant director to the UK’s Taiwanese political division. All the members of the delegation we’re very friendly and spoke excellent English. They we’re very interested in the items and services our company supply and suggested possible ideas that I’ll work on in the very near future. I had various decisions with them all as they wanted to help Small and Medium sized businesses (SME’s). Companies such as mine do not have vast marketing departments or over seas distribution agents. The Chief Executive of Selby District Council, Mary Weastell gave a presentation about the huge benefits of working with the areas businesses and how infrastructure was already in place to help make the partnerships run smoothly. During the networking lunch, I was invited to email each member of the delegation separately to see what help, guidance and progression they can help my company with. In the run up to Christmas I wrote about the ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ madness that happened across the UK. These two days had been borrowed from America and became big news stories in themselves. These were the two big days when Christmas shoppers pushed and shoved their way to purchase items, just because they had been reduced. Now that peak trading has returned to normal, retailers are wondering if they should have bothered discounting their profit margins by so much. One of the High street big names, John Lewis, said it was it’s biggest trading week on record, with sales up 22% on last year. However it has affected the bigger picture. They are now thinking if it was worth concentrating all their trade and promotion in those few days. That week put their back line operations under so much pressure, that it affected other areas of the business. Staff had to be relocated to help with the mountain of work, but left there normal work stations empty. Other big name retailers and couriers became so snowed under with Deliveries to stores, businesses and homes that all the hard work had gone to waste. Customers took to social media to complain about having to wait for something delayed, forgetting that the price was discounted. Sadly some people didn’t have items in time to give as presents on Christmas day. In the five weeks leading up to the 27th December, total like-for-like sales for the John Lewis chain rose 4.8% to £777million. Online purchases went up by 19%. John Lewis also plans to increase its store numbers from 42 they currently have to another 20 stores. They are looking at increasing it’s retail sections in the Birmingham, Leeds and Oxford area. Guest Blog from: http://www.forevergreenlawns.co.uk/ – Artificial grass in Football – In World Football, it is yet to be seen whether or not artificial will have an impact and will be widely used as a playing surface for major competitions. The FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke has previously said that he believes that the men’s world cup could be played on artificial grass “sooner rather than later.” With that being said, this would be a massive step forward for football and the direction that it is heading in relation to top quality playing surfaces. Despite pressure from fans and football professionals to use natural grass for the game, influential people on the FIFA board are highlighting the positives for many clubs and countries to change playing surface. Women’s football might be the first to use artificial grass in a major tournament, much to the dismay of a certain group of players – FIFA have announced that the Women’s World Cup played in Canada will be played on an artificial surface. In Canada due to poor conditions for natural grass this is what the board have agreed on, as it is the first time artificial grass has been in a high profile tournament it is sure to be a spectacle and likely to dictate how much we begin to see artificial grass appearing in world football. Looking very alike natural grass, artificial grass in made up from a combination of synthetic fibres that are made to simulate real grass. Often used for residential areas such as gardens, artificial grasses apparel is often like very well kept natural grass – which means an appealing looking lawn with low levels of maintenance. Companies like Forever Green Lawns supply artificial grass for residential areas, however now we are seeing artificial grass becoming useful for much more than just residential areas. Sports arenas are now looking to use artificial grass as it offers a far more sustainable solution to their high maintenance fees. In Canada’s case, FIFA have ruled that natural grass will be hard to maintain in a good condition for the duration of the world cup in with Canada’s climate – this means that artificial grass will be used to avoid patchy areas on pitches. Obviously, when using artificial grass there will be positive and negative facts and opinions. Some of the positives that come when using this surface are the fact that you can use it in most conditions, more so than natural grass. On top of this, the pitch won’t suffer from becoming patchy like natural grass would do, countries without the most suitable climate to maintain top quality natural grass can now use artificial grass as an alternative. This in turn will benefit teams in lower leagues with lower budgets, offering them the opportunity to switch to a surface that plays and feels like natural grass however doesn’t require the same amount of attention. This means that they will save money on maintenance and play on a good surface. On the other hand, some people will argue the negatives and no matter how significant of insignificant they are, you are likely to hear some of them. Purist supporters will offer the argument that artificial grass is new to football, and that the tradition of playing football on natural grass should be kept. Artificial is sure to change the game in one way or another, however it may not be a bad thing – despite this you will inevitably hear people feeling that the ‘beautiful game’ shouldn’t be going in the direction that it is. Players, most likely will be concerned with how the ball reacts to the pitch. We can see this in other sports such as tennis – clay vs grass courts – and how the ball reacts differently on each one. Also, in golf – where the length of the grass effects the running speed of the ball on putting greens etc. This will prompt questions on the differences in behaviour of the ball on an artificial surface. Despite seeming like an odd thing to question, that is an important factor to players at the top of their game as the smallest tweaks to playing environments are likely to have bigger effects. With all these questions surrounding playing surfaces, it is important to remember how it is sometimes more viable to suffer the negatives so that countries with climates unsuitable for natural grass can hold major competitions in world football. The woman’s world cup is likely to show up any faults that might have been overlooked.